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Boc Race A Nail-Biter

Incumbent Pope has two-vote lead on challenger Jaffer

Election 2014

Election 2014

POLK COUNTY — Better settle in. This one is going to take a while.

The race for Polk County commissioner, Position No. 2, between incumbent Craig Pope and challenger Danny Jaffer is still up in the air as they sit in a virtual tie — separated by only two votes — as of Tuesday morning.

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Craig Pope

With Election Night in this race looking as though it would drag on for some time — even into a recount — the candidates are now in “wait and see mode.”

Jaffer said he went to bed Nov. 4 expecting the margin to be close, so he wasn’t surprised to see the race become a nail-biter.

“It could actually be into next week until we find out for sure — or maybe after that,” Jaffer said.

Pope had a similar experience in the 2010 Republican primary, when the office was still partisan. He went to bed losing the race and woke the next day the winner. After the race tightened on Thursday, Pope had much the same thoughts as his opponent: “We’ve got a long way to go.”

Polk County Clerk Val Unger said Nov. 5 that every time she ran the numbers, the race got tighter. She wasn’t kidding. Initial results had Jaffer leading by 2 percentage points, but that lead quickly disappeared, shrinking to 50 votes in the early morning hours Nov. 5. Then it fell to just seven votes on Thursday.

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Danny Jaffer

After running another few hundred ballots received Friday, the pair was separated by only two votes, with Pope taking the lead for the first time at 12,526 votes, or 49.69 percent, to Jaffer’s 12,524, or 49.68 percent.

Unger said the clerk’s office has been involved in recounts before, but they are typically of statewide ballot measures or candidates and small special district races with few votes cast. She said she hasn’t seen a countywide race be this tight and continue for this long before.

As of Friday, only a handful of ballots were left to be delivered from other counties, which happens when a voter registered in Polk County turns in their ballot at a drop site outside of the county.

That happens often, but typically a race is decided before those ballots are all counted.

Not this time.

This race is proof of the adage “every vote counts.” In fact, this race will come down to the “challenged” ballots — those in which the signature on the envelope doesn’t match the voter’s signature on file with the clerk’s office or in which there is no signature at all.

The office is in the process of verifying challenges now, but the owners of those ballots have until Tuesday to correct the issue.

“I’m trying to expedite the process, but there are deadlines we have to get through,” Unger said.

Unger said she doesn’t plan to run ballots again until the deadline has passed for those that are challenged, which means the outcome of the race — and whether a recount is needed — won’t be known until Nov. 19. There are between 150 and 160 challenged ballots, enough to finalize the outcome.

The election needs to be certified by Nov. 24. If a recount is necessary, it will begin after certification. That process could take until sometime in December.

A recount is triggered when the margin is less than one-fifth of one percent of the total votes cast. Unger ran the numbers when the count had Pope and Jaffer separated by 50 votes. At that time, the recount threshold was 49 votes.

Both candidates said while the possibility of waiting for weeks to see who won the seat isn’t fun, they believe Unger and crew at the clerk’s office will get the count — and the recount, if necessary — correct.

“I have so much confidence in the clerk’s office,” Pope said. “I will not be challenging the Polk County Clerk’s Office.”

“I’m a patient guy,” Jaffer added.

The race for Polk County Board of Commissioner, Position No. 2, between incumbent Craig Pope and challenger Danny Jaffer is still up in the air as they sit in a virtual tie — separated by only two votes — as of Friday afternoon.

With Election Night in this race looking as though it drag on for some time, the candidates are now in “wait and see mode.”

Jaffer said he went to bed Nov. 4 expecting the margin to close, so he wasn’t surprised to see the race become a nail-biter.

“It could actually be into next week until we find out for sure — or maybe after that,” Jaffer said last week.

Pope had much the same thought: “We’ve got a long way to go.”

Polk County Clerk Val Unger said Nov. 5 that every time she ran the numbers, the race got tighter. She wasn’t kidding. Initial results had Jaffer leading by two percentage points, but that lead quickly disappeared, shrinking to just 50 votes in the early morning hours Nov. 5. Then it fell to just seven votes on Thursday.

After running another few hundred ballots received Friday, the pair was separated by only two votes, with Pope taking the lead for the first time at 12,526 votes, or 49.69 percent, to Jaffer’s 12,524, or 49.68 percent.

Unger said the clerk’s office has been involved in recounts before, but they are typically of statewide ballot measures or candidates and small special district races. She said she hasn’t seen a countywide race be this tight and continue for this long before.

As of Friday only handful of ballots are left to be delivered from other counties, which happens when a voter registered in Polk County turns in their ballot at a drop site outside of the county. That happens often, but typically a race is decided before those ballots are all counted.

Not this time.

This race is proof of the adage “every vote counts.” In fact, this race will come down to the “challenged” ballots — those in which the signature on the envelope doesn’t match the voter’s signature on file with the clerk’s office or in which there is no signature at all.

The office is in the process of verifying challenges now, but the owners of those ballots have until Tuesday to correct the issue.

“I’m trying to expedite the process, but there are deadlines we have to get through,” Unger said.

Unger said she doesn’t plan to run ballots again until the deadline has passed for those that are challenged, which means the outcome of the race — and whether a recount is needed — won’t be known until Nov. 19. There are between 150 and 160 challenged ballots.

A recount is triggered when the margin is less than one-fifth of one percent of the total votes cast. Unger ran the numbers when the count had Pope and Jaffer separated by 50 votes. At that time, the recount threshold was 49 votes.

Both candidates said while waiting isn’t fun, they believe Unger and crew at the clerk’s office will get the count — and the recount, if necessary — correct.

“I have so much confidence in the clerk’s office,” Pope said.

“I’m a patient guy,” Jaffer added.

Polk County Commissioner

POSITION 2

Craig Pope 49.69%

Danny Jaffer 49.68%

Watch for Updates

• Should any voting updates for the race for Polk County Board of Commissioners, Position 2, occur before the next issue of the Itemizer-Observer, we will post information on our website, www.polkio.-com; Facebook page; and Twitter page, @PolkIONews.

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